The stands of ‘father’s day’ cards and proliferation of catalogues featuring tools, aftershave and well…more tools, turned my mind to dad’s this week. I always think about the golf club cover I knitted my dad one father’s day when I was about seven years old. It took ages of painstaking knitting and I believe featured an enormous pompom on the top! Ah the pride in my creation! The joy of knowing I had made him something so useful!
So with the imminent approach of father’s day, I did contemplate ideas for great gifts to make for dad’s…a jaunty moss stitch or similar stitched scarf, a rib knit beanie or for the more ambitious crafter perhaps a vest or a sweater.
But it did, in fact make me turn my mind more to men who knit.
Try not to look too shocked dear reader, for in fact men do knit and crochet. I even saw one with my own bare eyes on a train not so long ago crocheting an awesome afghan rug. Actually, I wasn’t so surprised at all…more delighted really. I’d always assumed there was a movement of men returning to the lost crafts, just as women are.
But when dreaming about my bricks and mortar yarn store (it’s a long running dream, and I love to run “When I have a yarn store, I could….” scenarios, currently being tested by my online foray with The Yarn Bar) recently I pitched to my lovely husband, the idea of running men’s knitting nights served with beer. My naïve little ears were taken aback by the swift and scornful laugh….men don’t knit he said. I was disappointed, I’ll admit, by his dismissal of the idea, because men should knit just in the same way I am proficient with a circular saw and nail gun! Not only that, I knew men knit, I’d read about it, and well maybe just fantasised about it a little too. I mean when Brad Pitt was seen wearing a great slouchy beanie for some months, who amongst us didn’t think nice knit-wear…is the rumour true, does he knit as well? Could this be one of his own creations (gasp!).
I decided I should do some research…I am after all a scientist by day! Aside from the sometimes trite statements in histories of knitting that in fact men were the first knitters, and it was a very skilled trade back in the day with knitter’s guilds filled with manly men who knit the finest of hosiery (a slightly tongue in cheek history can be read here), there are some great communities promoting knitting and crochet among men!
There is the “Men who knit” community that boasts on their website over 5000 members ) and if the pictures are anything to go by these chaps know their way around a good cable and fair aisle pattern! And it seems it’s a growing trend, with more men tackling the fine art for many of the reason’s its finding a growing audience with women – its great for relaxing and detoxing from the hectic pace of the modern world.
In a feature article in the The Wall Street Journal (and surely a serious manly publication), they quote The Craft Yarn Council estimate that out of more than 30 million people who knit or crochet in the U.S., about 2 million are men and boys.
And, some of my most favourite knitwear designers on Ravelry are men. Jared Flood creates beautiful designs that focus on form and symmetry and create modern hand knits that anyone would be happy to wear. Stephen West is the king of kooky and mystery knits with his designs comfortable on you funkiest punk model. And what about the darling of the beautiful colour palette in both knitting and quilting, Kaffe Fassett? His designs are so exquisite and colourful its no surprise he sports a cult following of quilters and knitter alike.
But as one male yarn store owner will attest, men knitting still has something of a stigma attached to it. Those entering yarn store will generally be ushered to a corner chair with a pile of handyman magazines next to it.
But hopefully it’s a trend that is changing and gender barriers are being broken down in all directions (heck I loved trying blacksmithing and would love to do more) so that by the time The Yarn Bar dream becomes reality men will be shuffled to the craft table to join with other like minded, gender-non-specific crafters to share experiences, tips and tricks and a beer or cup of tea if they choose!